Sleep paralysis is a lack of muscular function that occurs while you sleep.
This is how it usually happens:
- When a person is about to fall asleep
- Immediately after they’ve slept off
- While they are waking up
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, persons with sleep paralysis often initially develop the disease between the ages of 14 and 17.
It’s a common sleeping disorder. According to studies, between 5% and 40% of persons suffering from this disease.
Sleep paralysis can develop in combination with another sleep condition known as narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and unexpected “sleep episodes” throughout the day. Many people who do not have narcolepsy, however, might nevertheless suffer from this paralysis.
This isn’t a life-threatening situation. Though it may appear frightening to some, no medical intervention is generally required.
Related: Analysis Paralysis
Sleep paralysis symptoms
Sleep paralysis isn’t a life-threatening condition. Being aware of the signs and symptoms might help you relax.
The inability to move or talk is the most typical symptom of a sleep paralysis episode. An episode might last anything from a few seconds to two minutes.
You may also encounter:
- Sensation as if you’re being pushed down
- Having the impression that someone or something is there in the room
- Feeling fear
- Hypnagogic and hypnopompic experiences (HHEs) are hallucinations that occur during, just before or just after sleep.
Other symptoms, according to Priyanka Vaidya, MD, include:
Episodes usually stop on their own or when you are touched or moved by another person.
Even if you’re aware of what’s going on, you won’t be able to move or talk during an episode. After the temporary paralysis wears off, you may be able to recollect the events of the incident.
Some people have dreamy hallucinations that generate dread or worry in rare situations, but these hallucinations are harmless.
Read: Psychophysiological Insomnia
Sleep paralysis causes
Sleep paralysis can affect children and adults of all ages. Therefore, certain populations are at a larger risk than others.
People who have one or more of the following conditions are at a higher risk:
- Anxiety disorders
- Major depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
According to Vaidya, it is caused by a separation between the mind and body that occurs during sleeping.
She also mentions the following common causes:
- Poor sleep hygiene, or a lack of the required sleep practices for optimal sleep quality
- Sleep apnea and other sleep problems
Sleep paralysis has also been related to a disturbed sleep routine. Working night shifts or being jet-lagged are two examples of how your sleep routine may be disturbed.
It appears to run in families in some situations. Although, this is an uncommon occurrence. There is no conclusive proof that the disorder is inherited.
It’s possible that sleeping on your back can raise your chances of having an episode. Sleep deprivation can also raise the chance of paralysis.
How can you know if you have sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis can be diagnosed without the use of medical testing.
Your doctor will ask for information about your sleeping habits as well as your medical history. They may also advise you to keep a sleep diary to record your paralysis occurrences.
Your doctor may advise you to take part in an overnight sleep study to monitor your brain waves and breathing while you sleep. This is typically only suggested if you’re having trouble sleeping due to sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis treatment
Sleep paralysis symptoms usually pass in a couple of minutes and have no long-term physical consequences or damage. However, the experience may be extremely disturbing and terrifying.
In most cases, sleep paralysis that happens in isolation does not require therapy. Those who show symptoms of narcolepsy should see a doctor. This is especially crucial if your symptoms are interfering with your job and personal life.
If narcolepsy is the actual reason for your sleep paralysis, your doctor may prescribe specific medications to help you manage it.
Stimulants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine, are the most often given medicines (Prozac). Stimulants assist you in staying awake.
SSRIs are used to treat the symptoms of narcolepsy.
Polysomnography is a type of sleep study that your doctor may order.
If you have this paralysis or other narcolepsy symptoms, the research results will support your doctor in making a diagnosis. An overnight stay in a hospital or sleep facility is required for this investigation.
A healthcare professional will put electrodes on your chin, scalp, and the outside border of your eyelids as part of this study. Electrical activity in your muscles and brain waves is measured by the electrodes.
They’ll also keep an eye on your heart rate and respiration. A camera may capture your motions while you sleep in some situations.
Vaidya believes that maintaining sleep hygiene and keeping to a proper nighttime routine is the key to preventing this paralysis.
- Avoiding blue light before going to bed
- Ensuring that the temperature in the room is maintained low
These nighttime rituals might assist you in getting a better night’s sleep.
Read: How Pandemic COVID-19 Affects Our Dreams
How to avoid sleep paralysis
With a few easy lifestyle adjustments, you can stop sleep paralysis and the frequency of episodes, such as:
- Reduce the amount of stress in your life
- Regular exercise is recommended, but not too close to bedtime
- Make sure you get enough sleep
- Maintain a consistent sleeping pattern
- Keep track of any drugs you’re on for any ailments
- Learn about the side effects and consequences of your drugs so you can prevent potential side effects
- Avoid sleeping on your back by sleeping on your side
According to Vaidya, the following techniques can also aid in the prevention of sleep paralysis:
- Counseling for trauma
- Yoga and breathing techniques might help you recover your sense of control over your body.
If you have a mental health problem like anxiety or depression, using an antidepressant might help you sleep better.
Antidepressants can help you sleep better by reducing the number of dreams you have.
Read: Tips to Stop Restless Legs Syndrome
Piece of advice
While sleep paralysis is not a serious illness but it can be frightening and uncomfortable for some people.
You should visit a doctor if the issue is giving you distress or hurting the quality of your sleep.